New Research Supports State of the World Forum’s 2020 Climate Campaign Targets; Daily Telegraph Reports U.S. Climate Change “Illiterate” (Updated with UNEP Report)

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Thanks to State of the World Forum collaborator Peter Merry, Director of the Hague Center for Global Governance, Innovation and Emergence, Chair of the Board of the Center for Human Emergence (Netherlands), and a founding partner of Engage! for forwarding these Daily Telegraph articles.

According to Peter:  “The Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research has announced that in order to keep below a 2 degree change, we need 70% reduction (of 1990 levels) by 2020. Our target of 80% (of 2006 levels) by 2020 is equivalent to 74% over 1990. So the mainstream is getting closer to what is really needed!”

ALSO here’s the link to a report released Thursday by the United Nations Environment Program which is “a new overview of global warming research aimed at marshaling political support for a new international climate pact by the end of the year, [and] highlights the extent to which recent scientific assessments have outstripped the predictions issued by the Nobel Prize-winning U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007,” according to the September 25, 2009 Washington Post article, New Analysis Brings Dire Forecast Of 6.3-Degree Temperature Increase by Juliet Eilperin (reprinted below).  Thanks to Paul Ray of State of the World Forum for forwarding the article, which concludes with this quote from Michael MacCracken, one of the scientific reviewers for the IPCC and a contributor to the UNEP report:

“We face a situation where basically everybody has to do everything they can.”  And the 2020 Climate Leadership Campaign cultivates individual and collective capacity to do just that.

‘Planned Recession’ Could Avoid Catastrophic Climate Change

Britain will have to stop building airports, switch to electric cars and shut down coal-fired power stations as part of a ‘planned recession’ to avoid dangerous climate change.

By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent
Published: 7:03PM BST 30 Sep 2009

At the moment the UK is committed to cutting greenhouse gases by a third by 2020.

However a new report from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research said these targets are inadequate to keep global warming below two degrees C above pre-industrial levels.

The report says the only way to avoid going beyond the dangerous tipping point is to double the target to 70 per cent by 2020.

This would mean reducing the size of the economy through a “planned recession”.

Kevin Anderson, director of the research body, said the building of new airports, petrol cars and dirty coal-fired power stations will have to be halted in the UK until new technology provides an alternative to burning fossil fuels.

“To meet [Government] targets of not exceeding two degrees C, there would have to be a moratorium on airport expansion, stringent measures on the type of vehicle being used and a rapid transition to low carbon technology,” he said.

Prof Anderson also said individuals will have to consume less.

“For most of the population it would mean fairly modest changes to how they live, maybe they will drive less, share a car to work or take more holidays in Britain.”

More than 190 countries are due to meet in Copenhagen in December to decide a new international deal on climate change.

Speaking at an Oxford University conference on the threat of climate change, Profjkj Anderson said rich countries will have to make much more ambitious cuts to have any chance of keeping temperature rise below four degrees C.

“If we do everything we can do then we might have a chance,” he said.

Americans are ‘Illiterate’ about Climate Change, Claims Expert

America’s lack of knowledge on climate change could prevent the world from reaching an agreement to stop catastrophic global warming, scientists said in an attack on the country’s environmental policy.

Published: 10:16PM BST 28 Sep 2009

Professor John Schellnhuber, one of the world’s leading global warming experts, described the US as “climate illiterate”

He said Americans have a lower understanding of the problems of climate change than people in Brazil or China.

More than 100 scientists are meeting at Oxford University to discuss the dangers of climate change causing droughts, floods and mass extinctions around the world.

The conference is designed to put pressure on world leaders coming together at the end of the year for the “most important meeting in the history of the human species”.

The UN Climate Change Conference in December will try to reach an international deal on cutting carbon emissions so global warming stays below an increase of 2C (3.6F) above pre-industrial levels.

Prof Schellnhuber, the director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Change, said the chance of getting such a deal was “pie in the sky” because rich countries like America are unwilling to sign up to ambitious enough targets.

“In a sense the US is climate illiterate. If you look at global polls about what the public knows about climate change even in Brazil, China you have more people who know about the problem and think deep cuts in emissions are needed,” he said.

His comments come as Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, made renewed calls for rich countries to cut emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 while also paying poor countries to reduce greenhouse gases.

Prof Schellnhuber said rich countries have to cut emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2020 on 1990 levels to stand a chance of stopping catastrophic climate change.

However President Obama is already struggling to get legislation through the Senate that will commit the US to cutting emissions to 1990 levels and will face an even greater public backlash trying to meet more ambitious targets.

Prof Schellnhuber, who has played a key role in waking the world up to climate change through his work advising the German government, described the Copenhagen conference as “the most important meeting in the history of the human species”.

He said even if the US, which is second only to China in the amount of greenhouse gases it produces, refuses to sign up to targets the rest of the world should make cuts.

“Not in Copenhagen but maybe in the conferences following Copenhagen, some countries including China and EU, will simply say whatever the US does we will go ahead. It is not only responsible but will be good for us economically.

“Why can’t we save the world without the US?”

New Analysis Brings Dire Forecast of 6.3-Degree Temperature Increase

By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 25, 2009

Climate researchers now predict the planet will warm by 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century even if the world’s leaders fulfill their most ambitious climate pledges, a much faster and broader scale of change than forecast just two years ago, according to a report released Thursday by the United Nations Environment Program.

The new overview of global warming research, aimed at marshaling political support for a new international climate pact by the end of the year, highlights the extent to which recent scientific assessments have outstripped the predictions issued by the Nobel Prize-winning U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007.

Robert Corell, who chairs the Climate Action Initiative and reviewed the UNEP report’s scientific findings, said the significant global temperature rise is likely to occur even if industrialized and developed countries enact every climate policy they have proposed at this point. The increase is nearly double what scientists and world policymakers have identified as the upper limit of warming the world can afford in order to avert catastrophic climate change.

“We don’t want to go there,” said Corell, who collaborated with climate researchers at the Vermont-based Sustainability Institute, Massachusetts-based Ventana Systems and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to do the analysis. The team has revised its estimates since the U.N. report went to press and has posted the most recent figures at ClimateInteractive.org.

The group took the upper-range targets of nearly 200 nations’ climate policies — including U.S. cuts that would reduce domestic emissions 73 percent from 2005 levels by 2050, along with the European Union’s pledge to reduce its emissions 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050 –and found that even under that optimistic scenario, the average global temperature is likely to warm by 6.3 degrees.

World leaders at the July Group of 20 summit in L’Aquila, Italy, pledged in a joint statement that they would adopt policies to prevent global temperature from climbing more than 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit: “We recognize the broad scientific view that the increase in global average temperature above pre-industrial levels ought not to exceed two degrees C.”

Corell, who has shared these findings with the Obama administration as well as climate policymakers in China, noted that global carbon emissions are still rising. “It’s accelerating,” he said. “We’re not going in the right direction.”

Achim Steiner, UNEP’s executive director, told reporters at the National Press Club on Thursday that the report aims to update the IPCC’s 2007 findings to reflect both new physical evidence and a more sophisticated understanding of how Earth systems work.

“With every day that passes, the underlying trends that science has provided is . . . of such a dramatic nature that shying away from a major agreement in Copenhagen will probably be unforgivable if you look back in history at this moment,” Steiner said. He noted that since 2000 alone, the average rate of melting at 30 glaciers in nine mountain ranges has doubled compared with the rate during the previous two decades.

“These are not things that are in dispute in terms of data,” he said. “They are actually physically measurable.”

Other findings include the fact that sea level might rise by as much as six feet by 2100 instead of 1.5 feet, as the IPCC had projected, and the Arctic may experience a sea-ice summer by 2030, rather than by the end of the century.

While the administration is pressing this week for an end to fossil-fuel subsidies as part of the current G-20 summit in Pittsburgh — and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner told reporters Thursday that world leaders appear open to such a proposal — activists such as 350.org director Bill McKibben said politicians worldwide are not taking aggressive enough steps to address climate change.

“Here’s where we are: The political system is not producing at the moment a result which has anything to do with what the science is telling us,” said McKibben, whose group aims to reduce the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million, well below the 450 ppm target that leaders of the Group of 20 major nations have embraced.

Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), co-sponsor of the House-passed climate bill that researchers included as part of their new temperature analysis, said, “As sobering as this report is, it is not the worst-case scenario. That would be if the world does nothing and allows heat-trapping pollution to continue to spew unchecked into the atmosphere.”

Michael MacCracken, one of the scientific reviewers for the IPCC and a contributor to the UNEP report, said that if developed nations cut their emissions by half and the developing countries continued on their current path, or vice versa, the world would still experience a temperature increase of about 2 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050.

“We face a situation where basically everybody has to do everything they can,” MacCracken said.

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